€480,000 spent on staff-related legal fees in 2008

College has spent over €480,000 in legal fees in dealing with college staff and industrial relations issues and a further €34,000 in fees to the Irish Business and Employers Confederation in a single year.
The Irish Times obtained documents under the Freedom of Information Act which showed that the seven Irish universities had spent a combined total of €872,770 between 2005 and 2008.
In 2008, college paid IBEC a fee of €34,161. Of this, €32,184 was in membership fees; the remaining €1977 was in exchange for publications, seminars, training and other services.
The same report also contains details of the universities’ expenses on legal issues in dealing with staff, revealing that in 2008, Trinity paid €480,000 in legal fees. College officials claim that these expenses represent an accumulation of costs over more than half a decade.
“Over a period of 5 to 6 years a very small number of College staff took legal action against the College which, having exhausted all internal mechanisms, involved High Court and, in one case, Supreme Court actions,” said the college Communications Office.
“The legal fees for these cases fell due for payment in 2008 and accounted for 95% of the total employee-related legal costs in that year.”
Legal costs in other universities in relation to staff are also high– in the same year, UCC paid €900,000 on such costs, while DCU paid €476,000 in 2007.
The Irish Federation of University Teachers has criticsed the expenditure, claiming that the high payments provide little value to the universities, which are, in general, suffering problems with debt. Trinity has recently improved its balance sheets, in part by releasing the fund put in place in previous years which was designed to protect the college from financial liabilities in relation to the Fixed Term Workers Act. The Irish Universities Association has defended the expense on IBEC fees, claiming that its advisory and legal services justified the cost of membership.
According to their own description, IBEC “provides its membership base of over 7500 organisations with knowledge, influence and connections. IBEC staff offer practical employer services as well as the opportunity to network and lobby at an industry level.”